All is good with the world when a concert brings a little mistiness to the eyes…this gig was one of those occasions. Saying that Anberlin simply played their music would be an understatement–this was an almost mystical experience. Follow along with me as I take you through the Anberlin odyssey as it unfolded that night…
The House of Blues show was in support of Anberlin’s latest album, Vital. They were in the midst of a nationwide club tour when they arrived in Los Angeles, at the House of Blues on the famed Sunset Strip. Now, playing Los Angeles can be a tough gig for a band. L.A. is home to so many industry types who have seen and done it all that it can be really tough for a band to win over an audience. Ever tougher, the gig was on a Tuesday night, not the optimum night to draw a crowd. However, the place was packed to capacity–barely room to shoehorn one’s self onto the floor. Anberlin opened with The Resistance, quickly followed with Paperthin Hymn. As is often the case on club tours when bands use the house soundman, it can take a few songs for the soundman to get familiar with the band and really dial in the levels, and for the first few songs the guitars were too low and barely audible in the mix. Eventually, that problem was remedied, and both the sound and the lighting effects were what one would expect from a venue such as the House of Blues—first rate.
The set list was a good mix of tunes from Anberlin’s more recent albums. One of the highlights was a completely stunning, reworked version of Dismantle Repair, with just vocalist Stephen Christian sitting alone on stage with a keyboard, silhouetted in blue light. Converted to a ballad, it became a moving tale of love and heartache. Later in the set, Feel Good Drag, their hit from a few years ago, brought the house down. There were a few quirky highlights, too. An impromptu singing of Happy Birthday by the audience in honor of drummer Nathan Young, which made Christian double over with laughter. Also amusing was watching guitarists Joseph Milligan and Christian McAlhaney changing guitars for almost every song (makes you wonder how Jimmy Page ever managed to play an entire Led Zeppelin concert with just one Les Paul.)
It’s no secret to anyone who has ever played in a band that the musicians will feed off the energy of an audience, just at the audience responds to a band. Everyone goes to a concert to hear the hits, and the newer songs will naturally get a lesser reaction. In this case, however, the songs off Vital received a reaction almost as good as the older songs, showing they loyalty of many of their fans. About midway through the show, something very interesting began to be apparent. Flowing throughout the room was a very noticeable love between the band and their audience. We’ll all heard singers say something like “[fill-in-the-blank city], we love you! This is our favorite spot on the tour!” When Christian said “L.A., we love you!,” it didn’t sound contrived or phony—one could tell by the tone in his voice and his body language that he was genuinely moved by the crowd. When the band played Feel Good Drag, the audience was singing along so loudly that they actually drowned out his amplified voice. Each member of the band got caught up in the moment, and the enthusiasm in their stage presence and playing was undeniable. The audience too sensed that they were part of something very special….that rare moment when the performers on stage and the people in the club almost become almost one spirit, bonded by the music. It’s a moment that’s almost impossible to recreate via the printed word, but impossible to forget if one was there.
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